Dead Goat Polo Arcade Game

Jason Torchinsky is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Jason has a book out now, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is a tinkerer and artist and writes for the Onion News Network. He lives with a common-law wife, five animals, too many old cars, and a shed full of crap.

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Some of you may have seen the amazing Soviet Arcade Machines Museum; this is up that same socialist alley: I started out trying to import a Polski Fiat from Poland, and somehow ended up with this: an old, beaten Ulak-Tartysh video game.

Ulak-Tartysh, for those of you not familiar with carcass-based sports, is essentially polo played with the headless body of a dead goat. It's popular in Central Asia, and especially in Kyrgyzstan, which is where this fascinating game hails from. This one appears to have been built in 1983, at some state-run electronics factory in the city of Mailuu-Suu. The coin slots say "15 Kopeks," but I think at that time all the USSR satellite states used that denomination.

I'm a big fan of 8-bit era games, and this sample from behind the Iron Curtain is especially fascinating. It's based on what appears to be a KR1858VM1 chip, which was a copy of the Z80. Most of the other chips are TTL logic ones, with very little large-scale integration. The video seems to be about 148x116 (?) with what I think are 8 colors. The graphics have that really satisfying gigantic-pixel look, but I think are pretty nicely rendered, considering.

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I got it here as a strange sort of compensation when a warehouse owner in Poland was unable to ship the Fiat like we had agreed; apparently, this machine was just sitting, forgotten, in a corner of the warehouse. To restore it, I cleaned up the case, and replaced the power supply system with a cobbled-together 110V unit, from the 220V it originally had. I've made repairs, and had to replace the screen/CRT, but beyond that it's as I got it. I left the case in its battered state, but the marquee cleaned up surprisingly well. I'm not sure of what all the words mean, but via an online Kyrgz dictionary, it seems the TAPT button means "grab" or something similar, and I think it says "GOOD!" (pronounced "Djackshi?) when you get a goal.

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It was on display at the last i am 8 bit art show here in LA, and it proved itself to be a playable, if not too exciting, game. MyTarpit posted a bit more about it here, and, more excitingly, there should be a BoingBoingVideo segment featuring it on its way soon.